David Brooks states in a NY Times column that “After World War II the Protestant establishment dominated the high ground of American culture and politics.” I was privileged to have emerged out of that high ground as a Methodist pastor in the 1960s and I have experienced the steep decline in our mainline churches over the last few decades.
The setback hit me like a brick wall while serving as a district superintendent in California a few years ago. A colleague was giving an audit on the attendance for his district churches. When he came to a congregation that had 1200 in attendance, when I was in seminary in 1965, he announced that there were only 70 members in the pews. I sat there stunned and saddened. The other superintendents were used to it.
In my retirement it struck me that we church people, along with most everyone else in our culture, have seldom bonded deeply with each other. We resist revealing our fears and anger but we manage to not hold back on road rage.
Brooks claims “… a new social fabric will have to be woven, one that brings the different planets back into relation with one another.” Our Methodist churches are deeply divided over the gay issue and politics, and in need of relating with one another. We will have to risk bonding deeply one-on-one among our members to turn a corner on finding that high ground again. The social fabric could also start with Congress members getting back to engaging with their counterparts.
Here’s a thought for starters. “Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinion of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.”
Katherine Mansfield (d. 1932),Journals